Stiles was ten when his dad took him out of school early one day. He could tell from the look on his father’s face that something was wrong. God was something wrong.
They didn’t speak on the drive down to the hospital, and they didn’t speak a half hour later when his dad got called into work. Stiles still couldn’t believe that he left, especially after what the doctors had told them.
“…Stiles.” Stiles’ eyes flitted up at the sound of his mother’s scratchy voice. Grabbing the styrofoam cup off the side table, he held it out to her and she smiled fondly at him before she took a few sips from it with the bendy straw.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” She asked.
Stiles set the empty cup on the table and shrugged, gaze now on his fidgeting hands. It was hard to look at her sometimes. To see how pale she was, how tired, how weak she looked.
“I thought you could use the rest.”
“Baby, look at me.” Stiles did. “I would much rather spend time with you, okay?”
“Okay, Mom,” Stiles agreed. Reaching over he grasped his mother’s hand in his still small one and smiled at her.
She smiled back. She always did.
“Your Dad explained everything to you, right?” She didn’t want to ask him that, Stiles could tell. But she also wanted him to be aware of what was happening.
“He… He did.” Stiles blinked his eyes rapidly, and willed himself not to cry in front of his mom. He couldn’t do that because he needed to be strong for her. Because if he was strong enough for her then maybe she would get better- maybe he would wake up, safe, in his bed to find that all of this was only a terribly bad dream.
Her grip on Stiles’ hand tightened. “It’s all right to be sad, Stiles. It’s all right to cry.”
“N-No,” Stiles protested. His body shook with the emotion that he fought to contain. “I can’t, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can, baby,” She said. Her thumb rubbed circles on his hand. “Come up here and lay with me.”
Stiles did, mindful of all the IVs and wires she was hooked up to. As he laid his head on his mother’s chest, Stiles finally let his tears fall. “Mama?”
“I don’t want you to die,” He whispered, his eyes were shut tight as if not looking could make all of this go away.
Stiles felt it, the way the air seemed to rush out of his mom’s lungs at his confession.
“I know, sweetie, I know.” His mom’s voice was shaky and Stiles could feel it when a few of her tears dropped onto his face. “You’ll take care of your Daddy for me, right, Stiles?”
“No, Mama,” Stiles whimpered. “Don’t talk like that!”
“Stiles,” She said gently, her arms wrapped around him as tightly as she could manage. “Tell me you’ll make sure he’s okay."
Stiles took a deep breath, inhaling his mother’s scent to commit it to memory. “I won’t have to. Because you’re not gonna die, Mama. I won’t let you.”
“Stiles…” His mom began. But he wouldn’t let her finish.
“No!” He sat up so she could look him in the eyes, so she could see the determination clearly on his face. “I won’t let you die, Mama… I promise. I promise.”
Stiles watched as his mom bit her lip, and tears cascaded down her pale cheeks. She nodded, finally, and brought him close to her again. “Okay, baby… Okay.”
She was still holding him when he fell asleep.
Later, Stiles awoke to the beeping of the heart monitor when his mother flat-lined. The doctors couldn’t do anything for her no matter how much Stiles begged them to.
The only thing Stiles could think was, “I didn’t keep my promise.”